Import Duties Act 1932

Import Duties Act 1932

The Import Duties Act 1932 (22 & 23 Geo. V c. 8) was an Act of United Kingdom Parliament. The Act introduced a general tariff of 10% on all imports except foodstuffs and raw materials. The Dominions, India and Southern Rhodesia were exempt from these tariffs until 15 November 1932, when the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa would have agreed on a system of Imperial Preference.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, introduced the Bill to the House of Commons on 4 February, 1932. He had with him his father's old dispatch box from when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies and his father's widow was present in the gallery. He explicitly referenced Joseph Chamberlain's crusade for Tariff Reform in his speech:

"There can have been few occasions in all our long political history when to the son of a man who counted for something in his day and generation has been vouchsafed the previlige of settling the seal on the work which the father began but had perforce to leave unfinished. Nearly twenty-nine years have passed since Joseph Chamberlain entered upon his great campaign in favour of Imperial preference and tariff reform. More than seventeen years have gone by since he died, without having seen the fulfilment of his aims and yet convinced that, if not exactly in his way, yet in some modified form his vision would eventually take shape. His work was not in vain. Time and the misfortunes of the country have brought conviction to many who did not feel that they could agree with him then. I believe he would have found consolation for the bitterness of his disappointment if he could have foreseen that these proposals, which are the direct and legitimate descendants of his own conception, would be laid before the House of Commons, which he loved, in the presence of one, and by the lips of the other, of the two immediate successors to his name and blood". [Graham Stewart, "Burying Caesar. Churchill, Chamberlain and the Battle for the Tory Party" (Phoenix, 1999), p. 119.]

Upon finishing this speech, Neville's half-brother Austen Chamberlain got up from his seat and shook Neville's hand amidst cheering. The Bill passed the Commons by 454 votes to 78, being opposed by the Labour Party and 32 Liberals. It came into operation on 1 March, 1932.

Tariffs could be increased on the recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee which the Act founded. The 10% tariff was increased for various goods from 15% to 33% shortly after the Act was passed. [David L. Glickman, 'The British Imperial Preference System', "The Quarterly Journal of Economics", Vol. 61, No. 3. (May, 1947), pp. 439-470.]


Further reading

*H. Leak, 'Some Results of the Import Duties Act', "Journal of the Royal Statistical Society", Vol. 100, No. 4. (1937), pp. 558-606.

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